US shrimpers target Thai imports

Shrimp producers in the United States have renewed their call for penalties on low-cost shrimp imports from Thailand and six other countries which they claim are hurting the domestic industry.

  • Published: 29/12/2012 at 04:10 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

A woman prepares Gulf shrimp at a dockside restaurant near New Orleans at a Seafood Celebration festival held in April 2011 to mark the first anniversary of the BP oil spill, which seriously harmed the shrimp fishery. (AFP Photo)

The latest petition comes as Washington prepares to review its anti-dumping duties on Thai shrimp in February. The current duty is 1.38%, down from 6% in 2004.

The Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries filed its petition on Friday with the Commerce Department. It claims billions of dollars worth of shrimp from China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Ecuador benefit from government subsidies.

"Today's filing is about the survival of the entire US shrimp industry," said David Veal, executive director of the coalition.

The group represents shrimp fishermen in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas who say they have lost US market share to lower-priced imports.

"Our harvesters, docks, and processors have all played a vital role in the economy and culture of the Gulf region throughout its history," said Veal.

"This case will help determine whether together we can continue to create jobs, contribute to economic growth, and sustain communities across the Gulf states for years to come."

Gulf shrimpers for the past decade have been campaigning against imported shrimp, but their latest petition comes as the industry continues to struggle in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Thailand for its part has consistently argued that farmed shrimp are always cheaper than those caught at sea, so the US Gulf fishermen are trying to compare apples and oranges.

Washington first imposed an anti-dumping penalty of 6% on Thai shrimp in 2004. Over the years the penalty duty has fallen in stages as the US has deemed Thai shrimp less of a threat to domestic products.

Even with the penalty duties, exports of Thai shrimp to the United States have remained steady. The US accounts for about 46% of all Thai shrimp exports.

The case is troublesome for Washington politically because it is engaged in free-trade talks with two of the other countries targeted by the shrimpers' petition, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The seven countries named in the petition exported $4.3 billion worth of shrimp to the United States in 2011, accounting for 85% of US imports and over three-quarters of the domestic market, the Coalition said.

If the Commerce Department decides to launch a new investigation into the shrimpers' claims, new penalty duties could be in place by the end of 2013 if illegal foreign subsidies are found, the group said.  

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